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Customs set to dismiss officers for releasing contraband

By Godwin Oritse
THE management of the  Nigeria Cus-toms Service (NCS)is to dismiss officers involved  in aiding the release of contraband brought into the country by importers.

The decision to dismiss this category of officers was as a result of increased influx of prohibited cargoes through the ports in Lagos.
Disclosing this to newsmen in Lagos recently, the Customs Comptroller in charge of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU , Alhaji Musa Tahir said that the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Abdulahi Dikko has frowned at the influx of prohibited goods into Nigeria through the Tin-Can Island port and PTML terminal.

Tahir who took newsmen on tour of seizures recently made by the unit also said that some officers who were fingered to have been involved in the clearance of such goods have also  been invited and that they have made useful statements.

He said: “Apart from the seized items, about 15 containers released from various seaports are being  detained.
“Some are being investigated for various contravention, while others have been converted for seizures having been found liable”.
Already, the FOU boss has written to the management of both the PTML and Tin-Can Island Customs Commands intimating them of their intention to question the officers.

Confirming the receipt of the letters, the spokesmen of the PTML Command, Prince Steve Okonmah, a deputy superintendent of Customs  told Vanguard that they have actually received the letter adding that the Command’s legal officer is working very hard to identify the officers involved in the clearance of the consignments in question.

He added that as soon as these officers are identified, they will be sent to the FOU to answer whatever query this is.
He initially expressed surprise at the mention of the Command’s involvement in the clearance of prohibited items and pleaded with the reporter for more time to carry out his own investigation.

“I have met with the Customs Area Comptroller (CAC) and other officers over the matter and they all expressed surprise and we immediately swung into action to ascertain their culpability and as soon as the officers are identified, they will be sent to the Federal Operations Unit to answer on what they know about the purported clearance of the goods.”.

He explained that whatever may have been done, were done long before the new CAC, Dan Kuffi arrived his duty post adding that the Comptroller is not resting in trying to block the revenue leakages in the Command. He stated that invitation of officers by the FOU is a normal routine.

Speaking in a similar vein, the Public Relations Officer of the Tin-Can Island port, Mr Chris Osunkwo, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs also confirmed the fact that the Command also received a similar letter from the Federal Operations Unit requesting that some officers be sent to them for questioning.

Part of the letter from FOU reads: “This officer is investigating a case of irregularities in the release of a consignment purported to have been released from your Command.”

“Consequently, the officers releasing document are to report to the Federal Operation Unit Ikeja for clarification”.
Osunkwo also said that the officers involved will be fished out and sent to F O U, adding that the Command’s investigation will determine their level of culpability.It would be recalled that Musa Tahir has in the past indicted these port in the clearance of banned items.


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